ARC Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: This Savage Song
author: Victoria Schwab
pages: 464
format: Kindle ARC
isbn/asin: 978-0062380876
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4/5 (from hated to loved) or 7/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of The Walking Dead, old-school vampire stories, Lestat, and everyone who wanted paranormal stories to be less about romance and more about people getting their heads ripped off.
There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

in depth

  • It's a very different kind of book, at least compared to Schwab's usual Gaiman-esque atmospheric fantasy with touches of magic.  This Savage Song  borrows much more from the horror and paranormal traditions, with a gritty dystopian section divided into factions and a slew of horrible beasties that stalk the night.  It has the flavor of a zombie apocalypse in novel form, but with monsters much cleverer than zombies. 

  • And much more interesting.  I love a good zombie, but Schwab's monsters are a thrilling new breed of horror.  They're rooted in good old creatures.  The Malchai are reminiscent of vampires, while the Corsai are skulking beasts from a gory creature-feature.  The Sunai are unique to Schwab, beautiful and terrible humanoids who can suck the soul of a sinner with a song.  The names are a bit weird, but the origin--that each of these monsters is bred from the aftermath of human evil--is an exciting twist that makes them new and interesting.  

  • August, the Sunai, is a contradiction--perfect hunter and avenger but also more human than most humans, with a soft compassion that has no place in a war zone.  On the other side of the divide, Kate Harker (gotta love the Dracula reference) is tough as metal nails with a gushy center most people don't get to see.  The relationship between them is slow building, spurred by desperation, and tantalizingly unfinished.  Schwab doesn't always give you what you want, which made her ending much more satisfying for me.  Her characters make mistakes, they backstab, they miss opportunities, and they still scrabble and claw to make it through in the end.  

  • The plot doesn't pick up right away, giving you time to become immersed in the characters and their world.  I don't think she ever fully takes advantage of the August-pretending-to-be-schoolboy theme, unfortunately.  The bulk of the action focuses on August's and Kate's race to escape the unknown person hunting them and attempting to break the truce that's kept this city semi-peaceful for a decade.  Once it picks up, it's a bloody, breakneck adventure with daring monster battles worthy of any sci-fi and moments of real beauty and emotion.  

  • It's really the logistics that keep this from being an easy five.  I mean, why would the Sunai be created with a tally system unique to them that brands them magically for each day they don't go haywire?  There's seriously no reason for that to exist.  It'd be cooler if it was just something they decided to do themselves.  Furthermore, I didn't think we got enough of August's family to really know the the way we come to know August and Kate.  

  • But wait...there's more!  Schwab raises the stakes towards the end.  I can't give it away, but let's just say that her characters go through deeper hells than most, leaving a wide opening for a sequel.  With tight, stunning prose, she casts a shade on the notion of humanity, on ideas of vengeance, redemption, and the cost of peace.  It's a story that cuts deep and leaves a lingering itch that can only be cured by more.  

in a sentence

This Savage Song is a stunning, gritty sci-fi that explores monsters in all their forms--human and monstrous both.  


will i read this author again?  Yes!  Always.  
will i continue the series?  Um, duh.  

Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


  1. So glad you liked it! I'm getting it tomorrow at Books of Wonder in NYC because she's going to be there!! Eeeek!

  2. This review definitely revealed a lot more to me than any others about this book, so thank you! Honestly until now I barely had any idea what it was about, I just knew I had to read it because everyone loves her, haha.

  3. If I wasn't already kicking myself for not pre-ordering this one...I sure am now! Schwab is a genius at everything she does and I'm sure I'll love this just as much as everything else I've read by her! Fantastic review^^